The Peacemaker (1997)

D: Mimi Leder
S: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman

Vapid would-be blockbuster spearheading Dreamworks SKG's foray onto the silver screen. Aggrieved Bosnian music teacher tries to blow up the UN with a portable nuclear bomb. Only cocky Military Liaison Clooney and Presidential Nuke advisor Kidman can stop him. You know the drill.

With the financial might of the terrible trio behind it and such a top name cast, it probably looked pretty good on paper for box-office gold. But the film is merely another painful reminder of the bad year Hollywood film fans have been having. It is a thoroughly routine, utterly numbing non-adventure directed with just below basic button-pushing abilities by TV-helmer Leder (of ER fame). It pumps up a lacklustre story with uninteresting characters and adds a plethora of explosions and unnecessarily moving cameras in a feeble attempt to cover up the basic lack of real excitement.

Despite the ever-present threat of nuclear disaster, the film evokes not one moment of hope or fear. Clooney's one-dimensional nonconformist superman generates no chemistry with Kidman's high power female, and though the script works hard to make them seem all intense and involved, neither actor breaks a sweat likely to taint the carefully-designed costumes and make-up they are wearing. You really don't care for either of them, and a supposedly high-tension car chase half way through seems more like an advertisement for Mercedes and BMW, as the hardware (and accompanying corporate logos) gets more physical exposure than the actors and the damage the cars sustain is more distressing than the never-likely maiming of the occupants. The story is so predictable that you know just what is going to happen to these people in the course of the movie, and dying in a nuclear holocaust or enduring a single believable moment of human contact is simply not on the cards. Add to this the fact that the script consists largely of a plethora of pithy save-the-world one liners and outrageous racial caricatures and generalisations, and there's nothing to hang onto on a basic human level.

This is a film devoid of drama, bereft of warmth and humour, and absolutely without interest for anyone on the planet who does not have some kind of obsessive desire to see Clooney and Kidman respectively grinning and frowning for over two hours. It is loaded with fetishistic hardware, computer effects and noisy explosions. But even acne-cursed teenage boys can only take so much of that sort of thing before they change the channel. It is also horribly overscored by Hans Zimmer, who was obviously asked to replicate the hummable brashness of his score for Crimson Tide (which has been used so heavily in trailers that it has lost all traces of its original context by now). The result is pure nonsense on every level, and its pitiful forays into human psychology (insultingly shallow flashback justification for the villain's actions) and even its momentary pauses to consider the morality of institutional violence and the consequences of political decision-making seem all the more tastelessly inappropriate. It does not even have pace or wit enough to work on the most primitive level, and neither thrills as a thriller or excites as an action film. Leder may have been operating under the delusion that she was making a taut political drama, but this is way too stupid to generate tension and its perspective on politics is beneath even Air Force One's outrageous fantasies. If you must watch it, please ensure that you don't for one minute even pretend to think this is the best that Hollywood (and hopefully, Dreamworks SKG) has to offer.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1997.